International Romani Day is celebrated on April 8 each year. The annual day honors the first major international meeting of Romani delegates which was held in April 1971 in Chelsfield near London. This international cultural awareness day celebrates Roma’s culture and history, art, and valuable contributions of Roma to our societies. It’s also a day to acknowledge and highlight the different challenges facing the Romani population — one of the largest minority groups in Europe today. Even in modern times, the Romani people still battle systemic discrimination, poverty, and social exclusion. Today, International Romani Day is recognized by all European and international organizations and institutions.
History of International Romani Day
International Romani Day traces its origin to the first major international meeting of Roma representatives, which was held from April 7 to 12 1971, in Chelsfield near London, United Kingdom. Twenty-three representatives from nine different nations attended the maiden edition of the World Romani Congress. However, April 8 was not officially declared as the International Day of the Roma until 1990 during the fourth World Romani Congress, which was held in Serock, Poland. The 1990 World Romani Congress of the International Romani Union (I.R.U.) had 250 delegates in attendance and they discussed issues such as education, public relations, language, and WWII reparations.
The Roma were originally itinerant court musicians who originated from South Asia — parts of present-day India and Pakistan. Though they are travelers who adapt to the cultures of their host communities, the Romani have their own cultural language, and distinct genetic makeup. The Roma migrated to Turkey, France, and Spain during the Middle Ages. When they arrived in Spain, the Romani culture mixed with Iberian, Jewish, Muslim, and Moorish cultures, and the people became known as Flamenco. The Roma remains one of the most oppressed populations in the world, having been victims of extinction schemes in Nazi Germany and different Communist governments in Asia. In the early 1800s, a large number of Romani also migrated into many American nations such as the U.S., Brazil, and Canada. To date, there are an estimated one million Roma in the U.S.; 800,000 in Brazil; and about 80,000 in Canada.
International Romani Day timeline
The Roma leave northern India.
Roma groups arrive in medieval Europe.
Twenty-three representatives from nine different nations attend the first World Romani Congress in the United Kingdom.
Delegates at the fourth World Romani Congress in Poland officially declare April 8 as the International Day of the Roma.
International Romani Day FAQs
What language do Romani speak?
The Roma speak Romani (‘Rromanës,’ also called Romany), an Indo-Aryan macrolanguage of the Romani communities.
What language is Romani closest to?
Because of its South Asian origin, Romani belongs to the Indo-Iranian and Indo-Aryan language families. Therefore, Romani is a close relation to Sanskrit and Indic languages like Hindi, Urdu, and Punjabi in its core vocabulary and grammar.
What does ‘Roma’ mean?
The word ‘Roma’ means ‘man’ and refers to different sub-groups of the Romani communities.
How to Observe International Romani Day
Read more about the Roma
There are many amazing resources you can find to help you learn about the Roma culture and its people. One of such resources is Ian F. Hancock’s book, “We Are Romani People.”
Join the celebrations
Find out if there’s a way to join the Roma in celebrating this international day in your locality. They’ll be happy to have you around in solidarity!
Share your Romani heritage
Does the Romani blood run in your veins? Let the world know you’re proud of your ancestry using the hashtags #InternationalRomaniDay, #RomaniDay, and #Romani on social media!
5 Interesting Facts About The Roma
There are about 12 million Roma worldwide
About one million Roma reportedly live in the United States, about 2.75 million in Turkey, and they form up to 12% of the total population in Hungary, Russia, Slovakia, Serbia, Spain, and France.
Don’t call them gypsies
The Roma people have also been referred to as gypsies, a derogatory term Europeans used to describe them because they were mistakenly believed to come from Egypt.
They were victims of horrific persecution
The Romani were put to death throughout the Medieval era in England, Switzerland, and Denmark, and countries such as Germany, Italy, and Portugal ordered the expulsion of all Romani.
They have a rich and fascinating culture
The Roma have an amazing musical heritage, which has influenced jazz, bolero, flamenco music, and even classical composers like Franz Liszt.
They’re still largely disadvantaged
Roughly 80% of the Romani in Europe are living in abject poverty.
Why International Romani Day is Important
Discussing the struggles of the Roma
The Roma were a threatened and victimized population in the past and even now. On this day, they convene to discuss contemporary challenges facing the Romani population and how to achieve global inclusion.
Exhibiting cultural symbols
During the International Roma Day, organizers allow visitors during the Open Day to various events like short movie screenings, theater plays, musical performances, and art exhibitions. These programs allow visitors to immerse themselves in the beautiful Romani art and cultural heritage.
Solidarity with the disadvantaged
The Roma, like many minority groups around the world, remain socially invisible and disadvantaged. On this day, we see the plight of those ethnic minorities through the lenses of the Romani people.
International Romani Day dates